Thinking about taking a test, meeting a doctor, or facing a challenge may cause stress and anxiety in a few individuals. Thus, resulting in an imbalance in breathing called hyperventilation.
This blog comprehensively explains hyperventilation, its causes, treatment, and prevention.
What is hyperventilation?
Hyperventilation is a condition when the patient starts to breathe deeply and rapidly, primarily due to anxiety. Healthy breathing occurs when an individual maintains a perfect balance between breathing in and out. If the person is upset or stressed, there is an imbalance, and they start hyperventilating by exhaling more than they can inhale. It causes a rapid reduction of carbon dioxide in the body.
If the carbon dioxide level drops, it leads to the narrowing of blood vessels. The blood vessels are responsible for supplying blood to the brain. This condition leads to light-headedness and a tingling sensation in the fingers. Therefore , in severe cases, the patient may lose consciousness. Hyperventilation occurs due to a panicked response to fear, stress, and phobia. It also appears as a response to depression, anxiety, and anger. The frequent occurrence of fast breathing caused due to emotions is called hyperventilation syndrome. Hyperventilation is also known as:
- Rapid or deep breathing
- Rapid or deep respiratory rate
- Over breathing
What are the causes of hyperventilation?
Anxiety, panic, nervousness, or stress are the factors that may lead to hyperventilation. It is also due to a panic attack. Other causes of hyperventilation are:
- Severe pain
- Use of stimulants
- Over dosage of drugs
- Lung diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Head injury
What are the symptoms of hyperventilation?
An individual suffering from hyperventilation may show signs of the following:
- Spells of lightheadedness or dizziness
- Breathing difficulty
- Burping, bloating, and dry mouth
- Weakness and lack of clarity
- Disrupted sleep
- Tingling and numbness in the arms and around the mouth
- Muscle spasms in hands and feet
- Chest pain and palpitations
When should one seek treatment for hyperventilation?
Hyperventilation is a severe issue lasting at least 20 to 30 minutes. The individual must seek medical attention when the following symptoms occur:
- Rapid and deep breaths
- Light headedness, problems with balance
- Chest tightness, pressure, tenderness or fullness
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How is hyperventilation treated?
A person experiencing hyperventilation can follow the treatment options, such as:
- Controlled breathing:
Controlling breaths can help treat hyperventilation and allow the patient to breathe normally. A person can practise in two ways, such as:
Purse the lips: In this method, a person should take a deep breath slowly through the nose and not the mouth. The patient should ensure the lips are in the same position as to how one blows a birthday candle. Breathe out slowly through the pursed lips. While taking a deep breath, take time inhaling and while exhaling, try not to blow the air with force. The patient can repeat this technique until the breathing is regulated.
Limit the airflow: Here, a person should try keeping the mouth closed and, with the help of one finger, close one nostril. Breathe in and out with the help of the other nostril. Keep in mind not to inhale and exhale quickly and too hard. Repeat the above procedure several times and switch between the nostrils while breathing. This procedure aims to make the patient breathe through the nose, not the mouth. Hyperventilating patients can be motivated to try these moves but see that they exhale and inhale very slowly.
2. Stress reduction
If a patient is affected by hyperventilation syndrome, it is required to find the cause of the syndrome. It is important to treat anxiety and stress immediately. Stress reduction and breathing techniques can help a patient control the condition.
- Home remedies:
Home remedies may do the trick to bringing the breathing rate back to normal when an individual suffers from mild hyperventilation due to anxiety or stress. Some of the home remedies are as follows:
– Include belly breathing technique. In this method, a person should focus on breathing from the diaphragm, not the chest.
– Start nostril breathing. In this technique, a person blocks one nostril and breathes through the other. Thus, alternating breathing between the nostrils and focusing on breathing.
– Lie down without objects or clothing such as belts, ties, and tight undergarments constricting. It helps focus on relaxing the body and regulates breathing.
– Try meditation to start focusing on slow breathing.
The doctor may prescribe medications such as alprazolam, doxepin, and paroxetine, depending on the severity of the condition.
How is hyperventilation diagnosed?
The reasons for hyperventilation may be many. Therefore, it is essential to visit a doctor to review a person’s symptoms. The doctor can carry out a physical exam, note down the medical history, and may recommend chest x-rays and blood tests to help diagnose specific causes of the conditions, such as infection. An arterial blood gas test measures oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood. It determines if a person is hyperventilating due to lowered carbon dioxide levels in the blood.
How to prevent hyperventilation?
Hyperventilation can be prevented by learning breathing and relaxation techniques such as:
- Deep belly breathing and full-body breathing
- Mind or body exercises like yoga
- Alternate nostril breathing
- Regular exercise like walking, running and bicycling
The patients must stay calm when they experience any symptoms of hyperventilation. Breathing remedies can help to get breathing back on track. Though there are treatment options available for hyperventilation, the underlying problems associated with it (if any) should be diagnosed. The patient can visit the doctor to find the problem’s root cause and get the proper treatment.
Although hyperventilation is not considered a sickness, it should be checked by a doctor if symptoms of hyperventilation occur frequently.
Hyperventilation can be caused by a range of mental and physical difficulties. Some hyperventilation-related illnesses, such as diabetic ketoacidosis, constitute medical emergencies. On the other hand, severe or life-threatening causes of hyperventilation are frequently accompanied by other symptoms. If a person is hyperventilating, they must remain calm and employ self-care techniques such as nose or belly breathing to reduce and normalize their breathing rate.
When a medical condition causes hyperventilation, fixing the underlying issue usually brings the person’s breathing back to normal. When hyperventilation is caused by an emotional trigger, practising stress-reduction and management techniques might be beneficial. Whatever the cause of hyperventilation, it’s critical to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.